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  • Jane Clegg

MUTARE SPCA, AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE PROVIDED

The Mutare SPCA is an animal protection charity, desperate to uphold the laws our society in terms

of animal cruelty and welfare. Based on the UK RSPCA model, but modified for local Central African

conditions, we were established at its current headquarters in the mid 1900's, when fundraising was

easier, and Zimbabwe had a well functioning economy and higher employment statistics. The SPCA

in Mutare actually began in the 1930’s but we do not have any written details about this.

Today, it would be almost unethical for us to request or expect any donations from the majority of

the Zimbabwean population, when they can hardly afford more than a single meal per day per

family. The extreme wealth accessed by the political elite does not percolate down, not even to

government establishments like hospitals. We are currently a nation in crisis, and in such a crisis,

animal welfare can become a casualty at the same time as its very incidence is exponentially on the

increase.

The prevailing situation sadly does not allow for healthy animal husbandry as perhaps many first

world citizens might reasonably expect, but that doesn’t mean that we should fold up the fine work

that has been done historically and that we are desperately trying to continue. The man on the

street relies on us. Many people will tell us when we are in the field about the SPCA. I was recently

out rescuing a tiny mongrel puppy from a hectically busy road, as it was looking for insects that had

been squashed on the asphalt, when two men came to tell me to call the SPCA to help me out. S its

important to say that this is still a very special country, full of courageous and hardworking people,

who smile readily, at the best of times, at the worst of times. And no matter how poor, they do want

animals in their lives... even if perhaps the reasons are often different from our own. Some of us are

‘pet lovers’ in the traditional sense, whilst most Zimbabweans are very practical about ‘owning’

animals. They must serve a function, be it a source of food, transport (donkeys and oxen), security or

hunting wildlife. These animals are not ‘pets’ and often live on the very fringe. We know that some

of us differ hugely in this way, and it is something that we talk about together, both sides not really

comprehending the modus operandi of the other, even finding it strange to ‘pet’ animals or

alternatively cruel to work them to extremes, be dependent on their work and yet not care for them.

Our role is critical in changing perceptions. Life is hard.

AT present our town is almost overwhelmed with dogs and cats, some feral, some roaming in search

of food not provided at home, and we at the SPCA could be doing so much to help if we had the

resources.

Right now its a constant struggle to cover our basic monthly expenses, (salaries, pet food, medicines

and vet bills, utilities, and maintenance costs). We are desperate for one more permanent staff

member who could man the office, handle day to day issues, fundraising, educational outreach etc,

etc...the list is long.

Our volunteers, a small band of 8 people, endeavour to cover these bases, but it is far from ideal. It

means no one person is singularly responsible for admin, fundraising and communications and

helping the permanent staff with their daily problems. The SPCA paid staff consists of three good

men, who work full time and tirelessly at our overflowing kennels. Mr Noel Usore, our Inspector, has

been with us over 40 years, and would like to retire, but we can’t afford to pay his retirement

package. We would be lost without this strong stalwart, who is the perfect representative for us. The

other two men have no formal qualifications that would allow them to fill Mr Usore's Inspector’s

shoes. His years of experience are invaluable. We need to train as inspector another man who has

the appropriate social standing and background to do this difficult job. Apart from the education

project, a real ambition of ours would be to do regular neutering and basic treatment programs for

the people living in our high density areas. We have a neat little clinic on our premises, and we could

be neutering dogs and cats brought to us and nurse them for a few hours safely post-operatively

before releasing them.

Our volunteers mostly work fulltime themselves to survive in Zimbabwe’s harsh economic climate,

and whilst we commit time when we can and energy and enthusiasm, we simply do not have the

resources to donate funds to sustain our SPCA. Much of our time and effort is spent simply fund

raising and whilst we have a wonderful community who are 100% behind us, we are now very

vulnerable to donor fatigue from our ever shrinking section of able and willing contributors.

FROM A JACK TO A KING,

Helping Petal Pig and her siblings to survive cruel abuse. She was treated at

the SPCA and then finally retired to a small hotel where she could meet children. Her siblings were

not as lucky.

I am not sure if you are aware of the recent politics in Zimbabwe, but we have gone from one of the

most successful African countries to one of the most shattered, soul destroyed, broken places. It’s

not there are not the resources, it’s just that the population sees none of it. Our unemployment rate

is quoted as being 80%, perhaps more, and as a result we are a nation of street vendors. Even our

graduates are reduced to this. Yet we have some driving around Humvees and the latest BMWs. It’s

a tragic oxymoron. But our charity speaks of the very basic rights, of first lessons in caring for

something more vulnerable than oneself, of kindness as an inherent and instinctive quality. It speaks

of not giving up.

In other African countries, domestic animals often live parallel lives to people, not integrated lives,

where the dog has lost his historical relationship with Man. We haven’t reached that point, but we

will, if we lose the SPCA in Zimbabwe. In days past, the SPCA in the capital city Harare undertook

some responsibility for providing funds for the rural and outlying SPCA’s, but they themselves are

now overwhelmed, because they cannot distribute any funds to us. We are trying to be independent

and inventive and energetic about keeping our charity alive, but the writing is on the wall for

constructed, legal animal welfare. It would be extremely sad to lose this little part of the outside

world, because once gone, we will never have the legal standing to re introduce it.

Some of our annual EDUCATION AND FUNDRAISING INITIATIVES

At the Annual Dog Walk, we collect and bus in children from peripheral schools to participate in this

event. They each take a dog from the SPCA kennels and do a short walk in the early, cool morning.

They are taught to make, from cheap rope, a safe leash, and use it with kindness on the allocated

dog. They get a little talk about caring for dogs, in the language most commonly used in Mutare, and

each child leaves with gift packs, an animal toy, a book, and they are given a hot dog and a soft drink.

All though this is out of our budget, we feel we have to try and persist as a social, and critical,

responsibility.

The BLUE CROSS ULTRA DISTANCE EVENT

We ask all citizens in Zimbabwe to self fund this long distance walk, run or cycle. They travel down to

the lowest point in the country, in the far South as the Save River exits the country to make its way

to the Indian Ocean. The participants make their way through beautiful back country to the highest

point, Mount Inyangani, in the Eastern mountain range. This remote adventure is unique in

Zimbabwe. Participants raise their own sponsors, and use their annual leave to do this. The

participants elect which SPCA countrywide that they would like to support. Mutare SPCA organizes

the entire event, and endeavours to make it very special, to show our gratitude. Last year it raised

about $2828.00 for our branch. Other branches received varying amounts, at the participants

behest.

Apart from annual events, we organize interest talks and request a donation to attend. We prevail

on everyone we possibly can to speak to the public. The subject matter ranges from health matters,

to gardening for Nature, to any exciting and adventurous travels, to research science and art. We

also hold Open Gardens Days twice a year. Attendees are welcomed to beautiful chosen gardens,

and are given a high tea, with wonderful teas, cakes, and later light lunch. We attend every fete and

fair we can, even if we raise only $40, we are out there. We really try everything we possibly can to

keep going, but we cannot meet our costs with the economy as it is.

We are not requesting this help lightly. We have simply reached a tipping point. It would be easy to

close the doors, put the dogs, cats and one magical goat to sleep. (Euphemistically PTS.) It would be

easier to give up than to continue trying to organize novel fundraisers from a beleaguered

community. But then we will be entering a time of great cruelty and hardship for the beautiful

domestic pets of this country. We have at any time around 30 to 40 dogs in the kennels, and 10 to

15 cats and kittens in the cattery. We do not automatically remove animals in difficult circumstances

from their homes, but rather, we try to educate and re-visit to make change rather than cause bad

feelings. If we get in a pet in devastated condition, we try to give that animal love, food, comfortable

sanctuary before they get put down, so they know what love felt like before they die, and that their

whole existence wasn’t a cruel one. We cannot hope to home all the animals we get in, and this is

the hardest part of our work. There are just too many dogs out there. When we really have huge

difficulty is when farm animals are abused. The costs involved are too much for us, but how very

difficult it is to turn our back on them. Recently, we responded to a case where a herd of cattle were

left corralled in a pen, throughout the November heatwave with no food and water. But that does

not stop us from trying to provide a service, a last resort, legal advice and at least an option. (See

the SPCA-Mutare facebook page for details.)

If you can see your way to helping us, in any way, we would be able to give detailed feedback and

would love to show any interested parties what we do. We have photos of our premises and some

past work, and will engage with anyone who wants to know more about our Mutare SPCA. As we

said before, we are at out tipping point, but not ready yet to give up. If we could just get some

funding for our basic costs, we will do whatever we can to keep doing fundraising projects locally to

meet the donors’ expectations and show them we work very hard to pay the bills, but we don’t

know how long we have till the day comes when we can’t afford to feed the animals we are

endeavouring to home or provide sanctuary for. Till we have exhausted every chance of keeping

going, we will NOT give up.

We may not have perfect pedigrees, but we are a wonderful band of brothers, and we need help.

Thank you. From: The Mutare SPCA Team of Volunteers

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Mutare SPCA

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+263 2020 63679

mutarespca@gmail.com

St Helens Drive, Mutare, Zimbabwe

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